“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi
I knew that coming to India and volunteering with Rising Star Outreach would change my life forever, but I never expected it to change it so drastically. I don’t even know where to start, or how to put into words the love I have for the children here, the leprosy patients, and the Indian culture.
These people have nothing but their love to give you, yet they give it all. Every last ounce of love they have in them is yours to keep the second you meet them. And you can’t help but love them back; you try your hardest to reciprocate the amount of love they give to you, knowing you will never feel like you are giving enough.
From the first second you pull through the Rising Star Outreach gates you can feel how special it is, a place for changing lives, and a place that will change your life if you let it.
My first day of rotations I was assigned to construction. I was semi-optimistic that morning that it would be an enjoyable day, but again, I never expected it to be so fun. Rising Star Outreach has a way of sneaking up on you like that and totally shattering your expectations, in a good way.
During construction we were moving bricks for an on-campus sickbay for the children. There were some native workers there that day, three of whom were women. These beautiful women were moving sand in metal bowls on top of their heads. As I walked past them carrying a ginormous stack of bricks, they motioned for me to come over by them. Next thing I knew, I was carrying a bowl of sand on my head. They thought it was the funniest thing.
The rest of the rotation I was with these ladies moving sand and trying to communicate as best we could.
It was on this first of day of rotations that I learned you don’t need words to communicate. While there may have been a huge language barrier, I was still able to connect with these sweet women in a way I never thought possible. We laughed, danced, moved sand, and formed a friendship. Who knew moving bricks and sand could be so beautiful?! I was again reminded of this communication lesson during medical rotations at the leprosy colonies.
On my first medical rotation we went to a small colony. I was at the oiling station. In those moments of massaging oil on the patients’ feet and legs, another deep love was found. Language barrier? Who cares. I was able to connect with patients on a deeper level than I ever thought possible. Words were not needed.
One beautiful lady at this colony was in a lot pain. As I sat down by her and rubbed her back and sang to her, she put her hand on my face and spoke something in Tamil. I have no idea what she said, and probably will never know, but that doesn’t matter. I was able to show her love in a society that shows these people no love at all, and I felt her love and gratitude for me.
Again, these sweet people have nothing, yet they give you all they have: their love. And they are so happy, regardless of their circumstances. Never mind that they have a painful debilitating disease, never mind that they are cast out of society, never mind that they have next to nothing; they are some of the happiest people I have ever met.
Education rotations are so fun! It’s an opportunity to connect with a child one-on-one. Whether it’s coloring, reading, playing chess (or in my case losing in chess), or just talking with the children, you again connect on a deeper level. It’s a beautiful experience, and you always walk away a better person with handfuls of children’s drawings.
My favorite part of the day is play time. If someone could please explain to me how so much happiness can be packed into one tiny little playground, that would be great. I’m convinced it’s better than Disneyland. The children are so energetic that you walk away from play time completely exhausted, but feeling so happy and blessed. The children show so much love and kindness, and all they ask for in return is your love. And an occasional piggy back ride or underdog on the swing set.
Give them your love, every last ounce of it. Never skip a rotation. Never skip a play time. No matter how tired you are, I promise the nap is not worth it. Spend every second you can with the children and make the most of it. You won’t believe how quickly the session goes by. Before you know it, you are packing your bags, saying your (tearful) goodbyes, boarding a plane, and wishing you could have even just one more day with the children.
As cliché as it sounds, live every second at Rising Star Outreach like it’s your last.
When I read part of that quote by Gandhi, “Be the change,” I like to take out the word “the.”
Let India change you. Let Rising Star Outreach change you. Let it change your life.
I promise you won’t regret it.
2013 Summer Session 3 Volunteer
P.S. Sponsor a child!